Over 300 Latina high school students gathered at the Queen Mary Hotel in Long Beach for the 17th annual “ELLAS” academic and career conference.
“It helped us really understand how powerful women can be if we really like try and put our mind to it,” said Jessica Perez a senior at Rancho Dominguez High School.
ELLAS is a non-profit organization started over 17 years ago by Pilar Pinel. A former community college employee who was tired of being labeled for her Hispanic heritage.
“She went on to say and you don’t even dress like a Mexican and I went on to say oh what is a Mexican supposed to dress like?,” said Pinel as she recalls the pivotal moment she found her life’s purpose: helping Latinas from low-income backgrounds by providing a path to higher education.
“The purpose was to bring resources to provide that scaffolding lacking in education and literacy to young Latinas,” said Pinel.
Seventeen years later, Pinel and her team now help young Latinas step out of their comfort zones by mentoring and guiding them as they pursue their academic goals and broaden their career options.
“They know what it is to be a woman in journalism, a woman doctor, a lawyer, a judge, they’re in the seat,” says Pinel.
The conference put the students face to face with guest speakers and feature career workshops.
“I wish when I was in high school I had that sort of space and encouragement so I feel like it was such an honor to be here and share that,” said Jessica Resendiz, owner of Raggedy Tiff and panelist at the conference.
Among those speaking were Latina entrepreneurs, and actors.
“It’s just great to see a room full of women that are interested in trying to better themselves,” said Chelsea Rendon, who plays Mari on the show “VIDA”
The speakers all shared the same goal” to inspire the next generation of Latinas and provide the guidance they needed when they were younger.
“I can say this really influenced me to think about what I really wanna do,” said Alexis Ramirez, a high school senior.
Beyond the panels and workshops, the conference also featured Latina vendors who represented the LatinX culture.
“We will always be that light in the presidential archive as a point of inspiration,” said Pinel.
For more information regarding ELLA visit their website at: www.ellascentury.org
By: Claudia Bermudez